An interesting thing happened between last week’s colchicum patrol and this one. Take a look at this:I don’t know exactly when the color intensified, but it seemed to happen overnight. It delayed the posting of this patrol, because I went back and took new photographs of many flowers to reflect the new color. I think this happens every year, but this is the first year I had it recorded in pictures. What causes it? I am pretty sure it is cooler temperatures, but whether it is cooler nights, cooler days, or just generally cooler, I don’t know. I just bought ‘Lysimachus’ this year from Odyssey Bulbs, and I assumed that milder lavender-pink color was its natural shade. I was surprised to see it deepen, but as I said, I’ve seen that before, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. But I really wasn’t expecting to see it send up so many additional blossoms in its first year. I’m impressed. ‘Zephyr’ is another one that deepened in color this week. This variety has multiplied rapidly for me, so that I now grow it in several different places in the garden. At the same time that the petals deepened in color, the flower tube changed from white to yellow-green. I really like the contrast, and I keep looking for a plant that will complement both those colors to plant with it. ‘Antares’ is quite different in shape from many of the other colchicums and more delicate in its coloration. I think it’s lovely and I wonder how I can site it to bring out its beauty. The single pink form of C. autumnale was in the first colchicum patrol. Here is the double white form, which multiplies well for me. The white colchicums look very striking paired with dark foliage, but I planted these in a bed of blue-purple flowering hardy geranium. (The geranium was here when I moved in, and I don’t know the name.) I will probably move them next spring, as I don’t think they are very visible amongst the geranium foliage. Sadly, colchicums are pretty mixed up in the commercial end of things. Part of this is because, as we see with ‘Lysimachus,’ colchicums change color depending on the age of the flower and environmental factors such as temperature. Part of the reason is no one has published a study describing all the species and cultivars since E. A. Bowles wrote Crocus and Colchicum in 1924. Because he didn’t mention tessellation when describing C. speciosum, some maintain that if there is any checkering to be seen, it is not the pure species, but a hybrid. Bowles did say C. speciosum had a “deep lilac” flower tube. And yet, I have ordered this corm three different times, from three different growers, and each time the flowers were tessellated and the perianth tube was white. So I don’t know what to think.
The first time I ordered C. speciosum I also ordered C. ‘The Giant’ from the same firm. And I could not tell them apart. In a different year I ordered the white form of C. byzantinum, and it was neither white nor byzantinum. As it turns out, all three of these flowers look exactly the same. I call them impostors.Whatever their true identity, these flowers are quite large and multiply quickly. They look great fronting a lilac hedge or a stone wall. It would be nice to know their true name, but it’s not necessary to enjoy them.